Released just a few weeks ago, Susan Winter's debut album is a live recording of her classy, engaging cabaret show at New York's Metropolitan Room. That show won her the Bistro Award and she's got a winning, warm, wise way about her that comes through on disc. Here's someone who can get inside a lyric because she understands it, loves it and sounds like she has lived it or is at least very comfortable in its skin. It all seems very natural, whether she's radiating optimism with "Lucky to Be Me" from On the Town or quietly in awe of a man being in love with her in "It Amazes Me," the gem by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Leigh. With an exciting, vibrant voice that can belt without getting harsh, snuggle up to a love song without slipping into mushy sentimentality, the Winter way is a versatile one. Also possessing a particularly attractive vibrato that takes in emotion and lets it linger in the air, she has a lot going for her.
Susan's set list consists mainly of the Great American Songbook. There's Gypsy's "Small World" done simply and effectively and a touching but very down-to-earth re-framing of the Gershwins "Isn't a Pity" to show how she re-connected with her father when she was well into adulthood. In her patter, she talks about her parents' courtship and marriage, with appropriate songs and anecdotes, including their own letters, to crystallize key moments, romantic and amusing. That's the centerpiece—or more precisely, heart—of the act. Heart is what Susan Winter shows plenty of, as well as a savvy way of getting to the heart of a song. She communicates. And she is at her very best with "You'll See" by Carroll Coates, perfectly nailing great lines encouraging a potential lover to open up, like "Come on, give in/ Surrender and win/ You haven't far to fall." Notably, she's at ease with post-Golden Age material, too, like Dave Frishberg's "Love Rolls On" and "I Can't Be New" by Susan Werner and Jane Paul: cool stuff. All she needs to complete this pretty picture and pretty marvelous album are a couple of sensitive and super-skilled musicians, and she's got 'em: bassist Tom Hubbard and Rick Jensen, who is the simpatico pianist, arranger and her co-producer. They co-produce sparks here ... and a lot of intelligent, satisfying music.